Firstly, I must apologize for my absence last week but I have been busy with Commercial work and there just have not been enough hours in the day. So rather than try to fit two blog posts into one week, I have decided to double up by choosing one ingredient but with two different recipes.
Yet again I have been inspired by Food Magazine produced by Waitrose, specifically the Harvest feature. I chose Forced Rhubarb for the colour which, in my case, is a little odd as I have spent my whole adult life thinking I didn’t like it. I can’t pinpoint exactly why but will blame school dinners. I have avoided it ever since and never cooked it - ever! This changed this last weekend when I cooked it twice, but more of that later.
Rhubarb is actually a vegetable even though it is used mainly in sweet dishes. It is a species of the plant family Polygonaceae - a herbaceous perrenial growing from short, thick rhizomes or root stalks. These stalks are the edible part of the plant. The leaves are toxic to humans, however, as they contain oxalic acid.
There are many health benefits to having rhubarb in your diet: it is a source of the minerals Calcium and Lutein. As already discussed, Calcium is essential for strong teeth and bones and just 32g provides 10% of the recommended daily dose. Lutein is good for skin and eye health. Rhubarb is also rich in Vitamin K, Fibre and Antioxidants, all of which play a vital role in boosting our immune systems and keep us healthy.
The main season for rhubarb runs from April to June but in February it appears in our shops and comes from the ‘Rhubarb Traingle’ located between Wakefield, Leeds and Morley in West Yorkshire. It is harvested by candlelight in forcing sheds where the lack of any other type of light produces plants with stalks that are sweeter, more crimson in colour and more tender - hence the term Forced Rhubarb.
Although it is a vegetable, rhubarb features mainly in sweet dishes although I did find a number of savoury dishes which include it. I have chosen two sweet recipes for this post:
Rhubarb Breakfast Pots - inspired by a recipe in Olive Magazine but with my own twist.
Rhubarb and Cardamom Custard Cake - from Food Magazine by Waitrose
I didn’t have enough honey to roast the rhubarb according the the recipe so I diversified by using the zest and juice of an orange, some chopped stem ginger and coconut sugar. It takes around twenty minutes in the oven and the result is a compote with soft and tender rhubarb which still holds its shape. This is layered with thick and creamy Greek Yoghurt and topped with rolled oats, hazelnuts and coconuts that have been toasted with some honey. This is the perfect way to start the day and I am now a complete convert to rhubarb!
I had the benefit of lovely light on Saturday when I shot this. It was really misty outside and it didn’t clear until late morning which gave me a lovely soft, naturally diffused light. Shooting glass can be tricky unless you are in a studio environment where you have absolute control over the light. My studio tends to be wherever the light is best - I don’t need a lot of room to set up a shot like this. Glass will always pick up reflections, no matter how hard I try. Reflectors and diffusers do help and it is usually a case of taking the time to to move everything around until it looks right. There is some reflection in the glass here but sometimes you just have to go with it.
With my new found love of this vegetable, I had not hesitation in attempting the cake recipe - I was not disappointed. It’s easy to make although I will increase the Cardamom next time as I can’t really taste it. The recipe said to grind the seeds of five whole cardamom pods but I only had ground cardamom and underestimated how much to use. If you are a fan of Rhubarb and Custard, try this cake - I highly recommend it!
I chose to shoot the finished cake against a light backdrop in contrast to the breakfast pots, once again making use of natural light but this time it was mid afternoon which was perfect for the golden colour of the cake - it really is that yellow.
This brings me to the end of this post. I can’t believe we are almost two months into the year!
Until next week.